A Cup Half Empty

By Erika Hoffman

Trudging down an endless, dusty road to the tour bus parking lot on a stifling summer day in Italy, I complained to one of my traveling companions about the heat, my feet, and the lengthy bus drives. Pam stopped and stared at me. “Erika, you always see the cup as half empty!”

This remark startled me for three reasons. First, I figured everyone was annoyed with the broken AC system on the nauseating road trip with only brief stops for viewing historic sites followed by more interminable bus travel. I also assumed everybody was weary of the “Hurry Up and Wait” itinerary. Thirdly, I never considered myself a negative person!

My dad used to say it’s a gift to see yourself as others view you. When my fellow pilgrim, returning from visiting the Carthusian Monastery in Pavia, assessed my inability to affirm the positive in life, something snapped in my head. What about all those times, in the past, I‘d taken pride in sharing my jaded insights, thinking myself witty? Maybe my listeners evaluated my reflections on life differently. Instead of envisioning me as a rival for a late night comedian, perhaps instead they deemed me a churlish curmudgeon? The folks I disparaged as silly Pollyanna’s were more likely appreciated on trips than someone like me; moreover, those cockeyed optimists would be welcomed anywhere, under any circumstances in the daily grind of life!

During that interminable bus ride with choking torridity and our noses wedged out the windows while we gazed at green hilltops roasting, I flashbacked over decades of my schoolmarm-ish behavior. “It’s easy to find fault,” Dad cautioned us kids growing up. I reflected on how critical my sibs can be and how judgmental Mom had been. I wondered if it was intrinsic in my DNA to possess a fault-finding gene. Was it my fate to be forever boorish? Due to an epiphany or a mirage that formed in the blurry waves rising on the macadam, I vowed under the Tuscan sun to silence my inner skeptic. Like Scarlett O Hara clutching a handful of Tara’s dirt and shaking her fist to the heavens swearing never to be poor again, I declared with a limp hankie after wiping wet beads from my brow never to allow myself to become a Saturday Night Live Debbie Downer again. Even if my observation of a situation turned out correct, what purpose was served in sharing noisome news? Misery might like company, but I decided on that delirious dog day afternoon to stamp out my tendency to elaborate on aches and pains and dire states. Like a prospector for happiness, I’d search for glittering specs of glee in the muck of misfortune! By the time we reached Turin, all of us tourists resembled threadbare survivors of the apocalypse. Dazed by the relentless 100 plus degree temps and the winding, monotonous, fume-filled ride, we dragged our zombie bodies off in sweat-soaked clothes. Barely able to wield our totes we filed into the hotel, like the seven dwarfs after a week of mining.

“EEEW! What a horrible, stinking day!” The distinctive voice of the familiar travel buddy – from the day before – whined. Nonetheless, I remained mute. Inwardly, I smiled at a fresh thought that flashed in my head. I gazed at the splendid sunset from inside the air-conditioned lobby and murmured to myself, “Today’s turned into a jubilant journey, after all, for this day is the first day of the rest of my positive-seeking, castle- building, cup brimming over, mirth-filled, exuberant life. I clicked my heels like Dorothy and sauntered up the steps with renewed stamina and a sunny side up affect that didn’t dissolve the next morning when the mechanic announced the bus’s AC was unfixable, and yet we were about to embark on an eight-hour drive, Under the Tuscan Sun! I heard moans but not from me. I grinned from ear to ear, realizing that attitude is the difference between an adventure and an ordeal!

About this writer

  • Erika Hoffman

    Erika Hoffman

    Erika Hoffman is a wife to one, a best friend to about six or seven, a past teacher to hundreds, a mother to four, a mother-in-law to three, a grandma to four under four, and a writer to thousands – hopefully!

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8 Responses to “A Cup Half Empty”

  1. Nancy says:

    Sip, sip hooray to that full glass!
    Can you pour a little into mine? I’m still running on half full.

  2. Sally Moore says:

    I would not like to think that the measure of whether one is a positive or a negative person is based on how one handles 100-degree heat in a bus without air conditioning all day. I wouldn’t get back on the bus the next day! but I’m pretty good at seeing a silver lining in a dark cloud. I do admire Erika’s ability to make a charming story out of a hot day!

  3. Nancy says:

    Sip, sip hooray on that half glassful filling you up!

  4. Rose Ann says:

    Erica, this story is one of my favorites. Love your sense of humor–desperately needed on that kind of trip! I can imagine that you would. Wonderful essay!

  5. beth fallaize says:

    that is so funny we are spoiled and sometimes don’t look on the bright side of things I have been told i do this a lot you make me stop and think

  6. Cora Brown says:

    This is reminiscent of wise words from poet Ella Wheeler Wilcox: “Laugh and the world laughs with you; weep and you weep alone.” A great reminder for us all – and a much more productive way to view our circumstances!

  7. Linda O'Connell says:

    Indeed! I have experienced similar trips, and finally learned to smile and nod, then write about it!

  8. Cheng Wang says:

    Erika led me to this fascinating site with her funny, witty and inspirational article!

    I have bookmarked this place already and will come here more often, like my first cup of joe in the morning:-).

    Thank you Erika!

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